FORMER Vice-President Atiku Abubakar says Nigeria will continue to grapple with the crisis of severe and debilitating socio-economic problems unless it gets the structures of the federalism and governance right.
Abubakar stated this in a paper titled; “The Challenge of Unity, Diversity and National Development: Nigeria at a Crossroads’’, which he delivered at the formal public presentation of the Daily Stream newspaper, at the Banquet Hall, Nigeria Air force Conference Centre, Kado, Abuja.
According to him, the current system, which is characterized by a focus on sharing rather than production, is clearly not conducive to development.
He noted that virtually all the development indices had not been favourable to Nigeria: massive and pervasive poverty, double-digit inflation, unemployment, dwindling foreign exchange receipts, poor GDP growth rates, high infant and maternal mortality, high levels of illiteracy, and millions of school-age children out of school.
“For Nigeria to develop – or even make any appreciable progress – we must re-structure Nigeria’s political, administrative and political architecture.
“That way we can free resources that would otherwise go to unviable ventures and projects, then commit same to areas that directly cater for and benefit the people.’’
He said restructuring would facilitate the emergence of a leaner bureaucracy, enhance efficiency, block wastages and promote more prudent management.
He said this would make for happier constituent units more committed to the progress and unity of the country and the emergence of a sense of nationhood.
“However, I am not here just to lament over the sad and unenviable state of affairs in Nigeria.
“I firmly believe in the viability of the Nigerian Project, I remain unshaken and completely persuaded that we can eventually change the story of Nigeria for good by collectively making Nigeria a productive, prosperous, peaceful and united nation whose people are happy and contented and one that is able to really lead Africa and assume a pride of place in the comity of nations,’’ he added.
Abubakar, who narrated his experiences from his recent trip to Malaysia, said he had concluded arrangements to assemble a class of economic experts to brainstorm on the best ways to boost the economies of the three tiers of government in Nigeria.
The former vice-president, who affirms that Nigeria is truly in crossroads, said “the problem with our federalism is that over the years it has become so skewed in favour of the centre that it impedes our economic development, distorts our politics, weakens our people’s commitment to the country and threatens our existence as a united country’’.
He, therefore, stressed the need to discuss and agree on the kind of federal structure desirable for the country.
“Reverting to the regions of the past seem untenable because those minority groups which feel that they have been liberated from their bigger, dominant neighbours, are unlikely to accept a return to that older order.
“We may consider using the existing the geo-political zones as federating units because they will be more viable economically and address some of the minorities’ concerns?
“If we prefer to keep the current state structure, could we consider introducing a means-test such that a state that is unable to raise a specified percentage of its revenues from internal sources would have to be collapsed into another state?’’
Abubakar, who described himself as more of a businessman than politician, said he would never implement a uniform National Minimum Wage structure across the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
He said under his leadership, state governments in Nigeria would be allowed to pay their workers’ salaries based on their respective financial standing.